Hamrun’s splendid Euro run ended yesterday when they drew 3-3 with Partizan Belgrade in the second leg at Ta’ Qali to go out 7-3 on aggregate. The 1-4 defeat in Belgrade last week left little room for a possible comeback by Branko Nisevic’s side, but the Spartans still gave their all yesterday even taking the lead in the first half and then making an excellent return at the end of the match to win a prestigious draw.
The Spartans were the better team in the first half yesterday but Partizan got an immediate equalizer and it was all but the end of Hamrun’s residual hopes of qualifying for the group stages.
In the second half, Partizan took the right steps and Hamrun gradually lost his temper and Partizan took full advantage of that by scoring two goals in the last quarter of the game, but Hamrun didn’t throw in the towel and thanks at two late penalties, the Spartans got a more than deserved equaliser.
However, it was an incredible journey for the Spartans who should cherish this valuable experience and be given another chance next season. The Spartans will now focus on the home stage where next Monday they will face none other than the champions Hibernians in their league opener.
The form the Spartans have shown in these European clashes should make them strong favorites to win the title this season, but the Spartans will need to keep their feet on the ground, and that will be mainly Nisevic’s task.
Hamrun stormed through their opponents in the first half, trying to reverse Belgrade’s three-goal deficit. They had several good attempts and several near misses, but in the 27th minute Hamrun took a deserved lead when Prsa fired home while served by Guillaumier.
But the Spartans’ joy and hope of recovery was dashed seven minutes later when Gomes fired home from a corner, with the Spartans defense unable to clear the danger.
In the second half, the Spartans lost much of their attacking flair and Partizan took the lead in the 72nd minute when Urosevic dribbled his way inside the box to beat Bonello with a low drive. Seven minutes later, Partizan were on the velvet with the game’s best move with Andrade squared towards Gomes heading home.
But the Spartans were determined to bow out in style and they managed to do so much to the delight of the thousands of loyal Spartans supporters who once again filled the main stand at the National Stadium. In the 82nd minute, the first penalty for a handling foul, converted by Vinicius, and in injury time another penalty for the Spartans with Fedele making it 3-3 from the spot.
Hamrun S: Henry Bonello, Matthew Guillaumier (79′ Matteo Fedele), Luke Montebello (63′ Jonny), Elvis Mashike (73′ Igor Nedeljkovic), Ailton Jorge Soares ‘Dodo’, Roko Prsa, Rodrigo Callegari Torre, Mousa Balla Sowe, Ognjen Bjelicic, Emerson Marcelina, Ryan Camenzuli (79′ Vinicius Freitas).
Supporter: Aleksandar Popovic, Sinisa Sanicanin, Igor Vujacic, Svetozar Markovic, Patrick Andrade, Queensy Menig (69′ Kristian Belic), Ricardo Gomes, Ljubomir Fejsa, Marko Zivkovic, Foussein Diabate (74′ Bibras Natcho), Slobodan Urosevic (79′ Zlatan Sehovic) .
Referee: Jakob Kelhet (Denmark)
Photo: Domenic Aquilina